German filmmaker Benjamin Heisenberg has quite the family name to live up to (yes, that Heisenberg), and it's hard not to see something of it in his third fiction feature film, coming after the well-received and intriguing The Robber. Nevertheless, it is a surprise to see him essay a more light-hearted, quasi-screwball tone in this slight but rather charming comedy, where an opportunistic swindler finds refuge with an aging, idiossyncratic psychiatrist.
Austrian actor Georg Friedrich, as the wily small-time crook Nick who makes a living off selling stolen rare books, effortlessly plays straight man to the great André Wilms, enjoying a late-career renaissance, as renowned therapist Curt Ledig, whose many influential writings are still somewhat overshadowed by his equivocal relationship with the Nazi authorities. Hoping to lie low away from some unsavory characters to whom he owes money, Nick finds himself mistaken for a caretaker hired to look after Curt while his family is off on vacation, and soon realises he has no idea what he's let himself in for, since the older man is so clearly relishing being away from family control and exploring his new friend's mind (Curt hasn't taken on any new patients in decades). But the two men also end up involving each other in the issues they're facing - Nick's debts and uneasy relationship with women, Curt's aging and consequent loss of faculties and the speech he's preparing for an honouring ceremony.
From an almost banal start, Mr. Heisenberg cranks up the zaniness, creating a stream-of-consciousness feel that is less about resolving the plot and playing well with plausibility but more about finding an escape valve, a release from daily issues by two people who have nothing left to lose (since they have obviously already lost their minds in a way). The problem is that the director's distancing, cerebral tone, a clear plus in The Robber, is less appropriate here, and Mr. Heisenberg doesn't let himself go off the rails as much as his actors do. The impeccable chemistry between Messrs. Wilms and Friedrich helps a great deal towards making Superegos an enjoyable, undemanding picture, and there are a number of smart, funny nonsensical touches throughout, but there's a sense that the film keeps more to the straight and narrow than it should - .
ÜBER-ICH UND DU
Germany, Switzerland, Austria 2014
Cast André Wilms, Georg Friedrich
Director Benjamin Heisenberg; screenwriters Josef Lechner and Mr. Heisenberg; cinematographer Reinhold Vorschneider (colour); composer Lorenz Dangel; designer Renate Schmaderer; costumes Stephanie Rieß; editors Stefan Kälin and Andreas Wodraschke; producers Janine Jackowski, Jonas Dornbach and Maren Ade; production company Komplizen Film in co-production with Vega Film, Novotny & Novotny Filmproduktion and Peter Heilrath Filmproduktion
Screened February 9th 2014, Cinestar 3, Berlin (Berlinale 2014 Panorama press screening)